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By Dallan Hunt

Supporting a child’s education is one of the most important jobs parents have, because we all know school is such a big part of our children’s and teen’s lives. Navigating the workload and making sure they are actually learning and getting the foundation they need as each year passes is critical. But it’s hard to know!

Parents in parts of Canada have told us that removing letter grades has made report cards confusing. And parents who do receive grades are telling us they’re seeing a disconnect between the grades their child is bringing home and how they think they’re really doing. Do grades tell the whole story? Does a teacher give enough feedback? Are the expectations of the classroom going to translate into enough rigor for their future?

It’s a good time to pause and ask: Do we really know how our kids are doing?

Here are some startling facts:

Some university departments, such as the Waterloo engineering department in Ontario, formerly recognize that some schools are more likely to inflate grades than other schools, and consequently have developed an adjustment factor when evaluating applications from new students. They recognize that, for example, a student getting 87% from a school with higher standards would actually be better than getting 94% from a school with lower standards. The grade simply doesn’t tell the whole story.

When grades are inflated, it often leads to what is called “grade shock”, as students reach post-secondary and are suddenly met with grades significantly lower than they expect.

James Cote, a sociology professor at the University of Western Ontario, says this: “About one-third of students find their studies ‘really stressful,’ partly because they are not accustomed to the academic rigours of university. High schools have really laxed off in terms of requiring performance of a certain standard and have handed out rather high grades for low effort, so (students) come to university expecting the same to be repeated.”

His words remind us that that college, university and trades programs all require the same skills and knowledge to enter and succeed in, but which a significant number of students are missing. Having these skills are key for students to succeed in college and university. In addition, Canadians nearing retirement actually outnumber young people entering the working world, and demand for a new generation of skilled trades workers is also soaring.  Eventually, many students will come face-to-face with the so-called “real world,” with all the expectations it entails.

Okay so you’re probably thinking, “What actions can I take so that my child is really ready for the future?”

Here are two things you can do right now:

First, it’s important to communicate with your child’s school. Here are some questions you can ask teachers and school administrators to help get an accurate understanding of how your child is really doing:

  • What are the academic expectations for my child this year?
  • What skills in the school curriculum is my child struggling with?
  • How is my child doing compared to pre-COVID levels?
  • How is my child’s learning assessed?
  • How quickly will I receive feedback if my child is struggling?

Second, another way to help pinpoint what your child needs help with is by getting a third-party assessment. Sylvan’s Insight™ Assessment not only shows how your child’s skills compare Canada wide to other kids in their grade level, it also helps identify subjects that your child needs help with, and the exact skills they need to focus on to be at grade-level.

Its results are leaps and bounds above that of standardized assessments, as it uses computer adaptive technology. Assessment questions change in real-time based on your child’s responses, and consequently, the results provide greater accuracy for determining what your child needs help with, which ultimately saves time to getting your child back on track. So many Canadian parents wonder why they waited!

Watch this video to learn how Sylvan turns the results into a truly personalized plan that ensures students are where they need to be in their own learning progression.

Overall, the disruption of learning due to COVID can’t be overlooked but can be overcome. Your local Sylvan team is here to support your child to have a successful academic journey!

We can help you uncover any unknown academic gaps with our Insight™ Assessment.


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